In this new series “Ministry Matters” we chat with people around Australia who are currently in Ministry- who are they, where they serve and what they have learnt on their journey so far. In today’s post, we meet Mikey and Heidi Tai of Providence Church, Brisbane.
Hi Mikey and Heidi. It is lovely having you here at Thinking of God.
- Can you tell us a little about yourself?
We are Australian Born Chinese, grew up in the best decade ever (the 90’s!), and are enjoying our 5th year of marriage. Although Mikey is a chilled Brisbane boy, and Heidi a slick Sydney sider, a mutual friend, and a little nudge on Facebook gave us the opportunity to meet. After taking some time off to study at Sydney Missionary Bible College, we moved to Brisbane to plant a church in the multicultural city of Sunnybank.
In our spare time you will find us making dorky videos on an app called ‘Dubsmash’, at the cinemas catching the latest Marvel flick, following Bean Hunter for Brisbane’s best coffee, or playing with our hairy son Simba (a Maltese Shitzu).
- How did you come into a relationship with Jesus?
Growing up, neither of us knew God and neither of us really ‘fitted in’. At school we were the Chinese kids that brought smelly lunch boxes. At home we fought against the Chinese culture. Even at church we were the ‘bad kids’ with the type of haircuts and fashion that made us stick out like a sore thumb. As kids who grew up in a migrant home there was always an uncomfortable gap between who we were, and who we were expected to be. On every front, we struggled to fit in and to understand life’s purpose. Whether we chased after pleasures or popularity, success or security, we found that life without God left us feeling lost, insecure and hopelessly unsatisfied.
One Saturday night Mikey was driving through the CBD and was involved in a serious car crash. What followed was multiple police interviews and feeling paralysed by guilt and fear. It was during this time that Mikey started going to a church where he experienced the joy of God for the first time. Although he knew all the Sunday school stories, he recognised that his Christian friends had a peace and joy in God that he never had. After reading the Bible for himself, Mikey found peace in knowing that he could surrender his anxieties to Jesus who not only died to forgive him, but carries his daily burdens as well.
Although Heidi heard the gospel for the first time when she was 15, she refused to believe that God could accept a messy girl like her. Behind her ‘happy mask’ was a heart that had been deeply hurt and abandoned by people she had loved and trusted. Although people always surrounded her, she was convinced that unless she wore a mask, she was unworthy of love. In the search for answers, Heidi explored the Bible with a Christian friend and found healing in the unconditional love, loyalty and faithfulness of Jesus – something that she had never experienced in any human relationship.
- What is one of your favourite Bible passages and why?
Our lives have been forever transformed by the timeless truth of the gospel:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8
God’s love is unlike any other love that you will ever experience. While we love people who love us, or are easy to love, God works a little differently. He loves us even when we are completely unworthy, for it is while we were still his enemy, Christ died for us. God’s love is so unique because it is not based on our performance or even our ability to love him back. It is the kind of love that we all desire in our families, friendships and romantic relationships, and yet as imperfect humans we all struggle to love one another this way.
God’s unconditional love for us empowers us to pursue a relationship with Him out of gratitude. For the longest time, we falsely believed that God only approved of us if we were good enough for Him. Our attempts at being ‘good people’ was driven by fear of punishment, and often left us feeling hopeless every time we messed it up. Everything changed when we understood that salvation is an undeserved gift from God. If you ask us whether we are confident that we’ll be going to heaven we’d say “yes!” – not because we’re good people or loveable people, but because we’re confident in God’s amazing gift of sending Jesus to die for our sins.
- Can you tell us a little about how you are involved in ministry?
We started Providence Church because we want the emerging generation in Brisbane to know the joy that we have in Jesus. While studying at Bible College, we had no idea what our future held, but we knew we loved mission and that God had equipped us with the gifts to reach the younger generation and the unchurched with the Gospel. After asking God for guidance, He used Christians in our lives to point us in the right direction.
In 2014, we started doing research into the Brisbane church landscape. The statistics showed us that the church is shrinking and failing to reach 15-29 year olds who make up the smallest percentage of regular churchgoers. It became clear to us that Brisbane needed more churches that were intentional in reaching the emerging generation.
Before we launched Providence we approached Geneva Push, an Australian church-planting organisation who tested our suitability for the task and continues to support us through their mentoring program. God also put us in touch with the staff team at Southside Presbyterian Church, who have supported our work in Brisbane in immeasurable ways. Finally, in His timing (and sometimes it felt very slow), God provided us with a launch team, finances, and a building to meet in, which allowed for Providence Church to be born on Easter of 2015.
- What is something you have learnt from your time in ministry?
When you’re in a big church that is well resourced, it can be easy to take credit for the things that happen in the ministries you’re involved in. When you’re trying to start a new church with limited resources and people power – you begin to acknowledge that God doesn’t actually need you, He is in control, and that He will provide in His timing. Being able to grow in our faith and dependence on God has been humbling and rewarding.
- What is one piece of advice you would give to someone considering full-time ministry?
Full time ministry comes with plenty of joys, but it also has some unique challenges:
- Your job is unique so you may feel lonely or misunderstood. Make sure you have a couple of trusted Christian friends who you can confide in and pray with. You will need their friendship more than you realise.
- If you face hostility from people inside and outside of the church – don’t be surprised. Your Saviour was nailed to the cross and he identifies with your pain. Surrender to Him.
- You may graduate from college with a big vision and ambitious goals. Remember that it’s God who grows His people and even the smallest amount of fruit is already more than you deserve. If you see fruit – praise Him. If you don’t – don’t be discouraged because your labour for the gospel is never in vain. We recommend reading ‘Zeal Without Burnout’ by Christopher Ash.
- As you walk alongside broken people in a broken world, there will be days when you will wish that Jesus would return sooner. Fix your eyes on Jesus who ‘before the joy set before him endured the shame of the cross’ (Heb 12:2). In the words of English missionary, Dr. Helen Roseveare: “ the privilege He offers you is greater than the price you have to pay. The privilege is greater than the price.”
If you are interested in checking out Providence Church, they meet Sundays 5pm at the Sunnybank Bowls Club, Sunnybank.